Legal Empowerment of the Poor in the Philippines: Perspectives, Problems and Prospects

In 2006, the United Nations (UN) High Level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (HLCLEP) together with Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Asia (ESCR-Asia), and key government agencies jumpstarted the national process on generating social dialogue and discourse on the issue of poverty and exclusion. More specifically, the project revolved around four major themes: “Access to Justice and the Rule of Law, Property Rights, Labor Rights and Legal Mechanisms to Empower Informal Businesses”.

Series of national consultations with government offices, grassroots formations and civil society organizations were held to critique draft policy papers that covered the identified thematic issues.

Two years hence, a book entitled “The Way Forward: A Policy Resource Book on Legal Empowerment of the Poor in the Philippines” has been published and distributed to different stakeholders. Viewed as the first comprehensive local literature on legal empowerment of the poor, this book is one of the concrete outputs of the UN-initiated multi-stakeholder project.

Right now, ESCR-Asia is conducting activities to raise public consciousness on the legal empowerment paradigm. Part of these initiatives is the continuing discussion with various LEP stakeholders in the academe and the government sector on policy and programmatic recommendations that have been identified in the book.

In this vein, we would like to invite you to a public forum titled “Legal Empowerment of the Poor in the Philippines: Perspectives, Problems and Prospects“. This will be on February 28, Thursday, 1:00 – 5:00pm at the Ambion Room (Room 110), College of Law University of the Philippines Diliman. The activity is a joint undertaking of ESCR-Asia, the UP Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity and the UP Portia Sorority.

* I received this email a few minutes ago; thought it might interest others.

One comment

  1. Your article on the legal empowerment of the poor is relevant and important.

    The concept of the rule of law has always been quoted and talked about by almost everyone and news and articles on the subject are written. The rule of law will not be realized if legal empowerment is absent for the poor.

    However, there is also a sector in our society that should also be legally empowered.

    The description that follows is only approximate but is used to illustrate a point.

    The sector of society that I refer to are the lower middle class.
    The members of this middle class are the rank and file employees of private and public corporations. These are the people who have salaries but will have to wait years before they could avail of housing. In the meantime, they live in apartments that are old, smelly and are located in unhealthy neighborhoods. They also depend a lot on the SSS and GSIS.

    These are also the people who have salaries yet they could not afford to hire a lawyer but are not otherwise eligible to avail of free legal services from the Public Attorneys Office. These are the people who try their first steps at entrepreneurship by striving to join a multi-level marketing type of business, but only to flounder towards the end. These are the people who will try their best to send their children to private schools but later on, due to some unfortunate circumstance, would have to sadly transfer their children to a public school. These are the people who will try to loan money, even at usurious rates, just to have a family member treated in hospital for some serious ailment but they could not avail of discounts from the hospital social worker because they are wage earners.

    These are the people that government has turned away its attention just because they are earning some salary.

    They may appear more fortunate than the poor. But government and church have always turned their attention to the poor. Yet, the poor remain poor. The poor could hardly contribute to the economy because even if they have some business (banana Q, barbecue, and the like), they never pay taxes. The poor also cut corners by having the tendency to bribe their way. The poor readily sell their votes for a few pesos.

    It is the lower middle class who pay taxes because the BIR implements a collection at source scheme in tax collection for the employed. It is these people who pay realty taxes and other fees required to transact in government offices.

    Unfortunately, there are no programs by government or by the church to address the concerns of the lower middle class.

    Isn’t it about time that the lower middle class get the attention and programs that they also deserve? Isn’t it about time that they be legally empowered also?

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